It probably started on March 1st, 1948; a day that, 126 years later, would reshape the world.
After World War II, a few radio telephones were installed into cars belonging to wealthy, important people. Perhaps no more than a thousand were used throughout the United States. These were like early radio systems used by the Detroit police force, back in 1921.
Come 1947, a prophetically apt named gentleman, D.H. Ring (from Bell Labs), described the mobile telephone service. While the world-renown AT&T was playing dodge-ball politics, the Richmond Radiotelephone Company beat AT&T to deliver the first automatic radiotelephone service. It went live on March 1st, 1948.
Back then, mobile phones depended on a single, high-power tower, with a fairly large, but limited range -- much like a local radio-station. Soon after, many low-power transmitters, each with a range of a few miles, were used instead.
The area covered by the low-power towers is called a cell.
Dr. Martin Cooper, general manager of Motorola's Communications Systems division, placed a phone call to his rival at AT&T. Normally such an event would not be noteworthy. That this phone call took place while walking along a New York city street made it extraordinary. The public had never before seen someone talking on the phone while taking a stroll.
Cooper slimmed it down, eventually producing the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, a name almost as heavy as the phone. It was the world's first commercially available cellular telephone and service.
As technology spun along, cell phones dropped in size, but increased in power. Time was the only thing that prevented two technologies from converging then and there. But who merged them first is a matter of some controversy.
In 1994, the Olympus Corporation produced a camera that could send a digital photograph over regular telephone and cellular networks (the VC-1100). Each picture took between one and six minutes to send. While a good start, it left much to be desired.
Philippe Kahn, intent on sharing the birth of his daughter, rigged a camera to his cell phone, using parts purchased from RadioShack. When her birthday arrived (June 11th, 1997), he demonstrated a usable camera-phone. He then took his invention to J-Phone, in Japan.
The year 2000 saw a subtle shift in the world: people could show their family and friends what they were seeing, almost immediately upon seeing it, from anywhere in the world.
Tiny electronics became wearable and fashionable. They also came with a wireless technology that allowed different devices to communicate with each other. Machines could transfer a vast amount of information betwixt themselves ... in seconds.
Although around for years, state of the art integration saw the advent of sunglasses with a miniature camera. The glasses could record everything the viewer saw and simultaneously transmit the video feed to a nearby computer. Gone were conspicuous wires dangling like vines.
One megabyte of disk space means that you can store just over a million letters of the alphabet (plus numbers, punctuation, spaces, and so forth). IBM produced the first hard drive near the end of 1956. It could hold well over five million characters, which is enough to hold a typical five-minute song (as an mp3 file).
One gigabyte of disk space is about a thousand megabytes, and one terabyte is about a thousand gigabytes. When Hitachi shipped their terabyte drive in April of 2007, the world barely batted an eye. For video junkies, it meant that they could now store, on a single drive, high-quality versions of all their favourite movies.
A two hour movie needs roughly one gigabyte of space. That is in the ballpark of a thousand movies on a terabyte drive. Put another way, it is 2,000 hours of video, or 83 days, or one-fifth of a year.
A quiet revolution was at hand.
Hologram technology, in August of 2012, brought storage capacity to nearly six times that which was available in 2007. One terabyte of storage (83 days of video) could be saved in a square inch of physical space. By 2018, the same amount of information required a quarter of that space.
Cellular, Wireless and Satellite technology made portable devices ubiquitous. By late 2019, Google offered free wireless-Internet connectivity, within the limits of every major city (when not offered for free by the city itself), throughout North America (and eventually the world). Cellphones barely needed batteries to operate, as their power consumption dropped dramatically.
A full day of audio and visual activity could be recorded without interruption, while being retransmitted to almost anywhere in the world -- streamed instantly.
Two years ago today, Sean Alexander, Jason Lee, and Peter Samuels presented a contact lens that records everything the wearer sees, as well as displays video streams. Called the Daycorder Lens, it can correct vision and, with a custom visual cortex implant, give vision to the blind, and much more.
The device adapts its video screen to pupil dilation. A cursor is controlled using mind-mapped commands. Playback allows people to review an event at any point in their past, from the vantage point of anyone present at that time. Bionic augmentation brings in ultraviolet, infrared, and magnified vision. GPS tracking is often enabled for anyone under 16 years old.
The consequences have been immense:
With a camera-enabled barrette, a mother can have eyes in the back of her head.